The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: December 3rd, 2000

Roots of the Talismans

By: Irk

Irk's beforehand note: I'm using Japanese names and terms here. See my wonderful sources at the bottom. Eat Pocky, Lisa Ortiz says so! ^-^

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Since I started surfing the Sailor Moon internet in 1996 or so, I've seen a couple of details mentioning the origin or cultural basis for the Outer Senshi's talismans on various pages. The explanations were never very complete or failed to go into a lot of depth, so I really couldn't use them as much of a source. However, when researching an essay on Japanese art, I ran across a large amount of information on Japanese history and cultural background. I found some details that explained a great deal about the sparse information I had sighted around the web, as well as a better backstory for Rurouni Kenshin. ^^; But I think I'll give you the details on the Talismans.

To understand all of this you're going to have to have a loose knowledge of Shinto, the leading religion in Japan. (Along with Buddhism, of course.) I'm sure most of you know that Rei is a Shinto priestess, more accurately a miko-in-training. "Shinto is an animistic form of nature worship...[which] has no official theology, no set scriptures, and no moral code beyond cleanliness." (Levi, 34) Shinto also has a great many gods and goddesses, most of them 'kami'. Mount Fuji-san is a kami. The emperor is a kami. Your ancestors are kami. There's no end to kami. ^-^; However, there are also some more 'official' deities, such as Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. Amaterasu is the main deity of Shinto and the imperial family is said to be descended from her. Her three treasures, a mirror, jewel, and sword, are symbols of that imperial family, especially the sword.

I'm sure for most of you a bell has rung already. A mirror, jewel and sword? Very interesting. Where could THAT have come from?

Well, the jewel and mirror come from one of the earliest stories of Amaterasu. Allow me to quote.

The original story of Amaterasu and Susanou is recorded in both the Nihongi and the Kojiki. They were brother and sister, born of Izanami and Izanagi, the two original gods who created both the islands of Japan and its myriad deities. Izanami and Izanagi were brother and sister, but they were also married. Amaterasu and Susanou never went through any formal marriage ceremony. Indeed, Susanou later married someone else. However, he and his sister did produce a number of children together, including the line that eventually became Japan's Imperial family. Sadly, moments of love were rare for them. Mostly, they fought.

Their most famous fight occurred when Susanou visited his sister on the high plains of Heaven. Ostensibly, his purpose was to apologize for an earlier incident, but she suspected him from the start. Her suspicions were confirmed by his behavior. He trampled her rice paddies and defiled her palace by defecating beneath her throne. The last straw, however, was when he flung a flayed colt into her weaving room, causing her to wound herself with her own shuttle. Deeply offended, Amaterasu retired to the rock cave of Heaven, pulled a huge rock across the entrance and stayed there, leaving the Earth without sunlight. The planet began to die. (Levi, 39)

Deeply concerned, other gods of heaven and earth met before the entrance of the cave, hoping to lure the frightened Sun Goddess back into the world. Resorting to guile, they created a sacred tree and upon it hung a mirror and a jewel. Then one of the goddesses performed a vulgar but amusing dance. Hearing the mirth outside the cave, the Sun Goddess was naturally curious, ventured to the entrance and was struck by the beauty of the jewel and intrigued by her brilliant reflection in the mirror. Thus light was returned to the world...The jewel and the mirror described in this tale became, with the sword, the three symbols of the Imperial Family. (Smith, 140)

Where'd the sword come from then? That was certainly what I'd wondered when anyone would (much more concisely) paraphrase the legend. But I found in my research that the answer to my problem was quite simple. Swords are very very important. Any portraits I saw of emperors or of their male relatives showed them bearing a sword. The sword is a symbol of the ruling class. And then it REALLY became clear when I read this:

The Sun Goddess instructed her grandchild to illuminate the world with light like the mirror, to reign over the world with the jewel, and to subdue those who will not obey with the divine sword. It is said that the mirror has the form of the sun, the jewel the moon, and the sword the substance of the stars. (Smith, 175)

Well, now we've got Talismans. ^_^ And in fact, other things that I read give a little insight into our beloved Outer Senshi. In the 1200's, the Mongols attempted to invade Japan two times. Both invasions were repelled not only by the Japanese, but also by two storms, the second an extremely violent hurricane (monsoon or tsunami or typhoon if you please).

The hurricane became known as 'kamikaze', or divine wind. The episode became a great patriotic epic in which the national deities, through the divine wind, saved the sacred soil of Japan from pollution. Shintoism, especially its worship of the Sun Goddess and Hachiman[a Shinto god of war], enjoyed a revival. (Smith, 119)

Well, from all of this, what have we learned?

Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto: Our dear Outer Trio's powers are of course based loosely on their Roman deity counterparts, but I see influence from the 'kamikaze' as well. The Outers are indeed a divine wind, appearing out of nowhere to save Japan and the rest of the senshi's collective keysters. Moreover their attacks make a bit more sense now, as I'll go into on an individual scale:

Sailor Neptune: Sailor Neptune's Deep Aqua Mirror is obviously one of Amaterasu's sacred treasures. Amaterasu's mirror's powers of reflection intrigued the Sun Goddess and helped shake her out of her reclusion, while 'Submarine Reflection' reveals the enemy's weaknesses with their reflection. 'Deep Submerge', while of course tied sea-wise to the Roman god Neptune, also has a basis in the kamikaze that saved all of Japan from the Mongols. (If anyone wants to make any astrological ties with the mirror having the form of the sun they're welcome to tell me about it, or better yet post it themselves.) Also a holy mirror is placed inside each Shinto shrine, symbolizing Amaterasu's mirror. This is a plot point in one of BSSM's episodes, though I have absolutely no idea which one it was. I think it was in R part two. Work with me here. ^^;;;

Sailor Uranus: The Space Sword's name makes a heck of a lot more sense now, as its predecessor had the 'substance of the stars'. That of course ties in well with Uranus' sky attributes and with the god Uranus' qualities. Uranus certainly uses the sword to 'subdue those who will not obey' with 'Space Sword Blaster'. 'World Shaking' makes more sense to me now as an element of nature from our dear divine wind. Lightning and thunder are part of the heavens and indeed shake the earth during a good hurricane. I live in Louisiana so I can well attest to that fact. ^_^;

Sailor Pluto: Well, that's the Garnet Orb for you. Sailor Pluto does not reign over the world with the jewel but she certainly rules over time with it. As for 'Dead Scream', which I could never tie to time at all, it certainly appears to be its own divine wind. 'Chronos Typhoon' which, as I know it, is the manga equivalent of the other senshi's boosted Talisman powers, draws the whole legendary storm together quite nicely. The fact that the jewel is attributed to the Moon could be reflected in Sailor Pluto's friendship with Chibi-Usa and with her general ties to the Moon's royal family.

I understand a great deal more about the three senshi now. The legendary divine wind that saves Japan from invaders is reflected in their task to protect the Earth from invaders outside the Solar System. Certain powers make *quite* a lot more sense now, which saves me the headache of wondering why Naoko did so-and-so. But what about Saturn? I really have no idea. She doesn't quite fit in with the trio during the beginning of S anyways. I could only call her silence the 'calm before the storm' so to speak. But then, Saturn's not exactly anyone's type of 'normal' senshi. She deserves her own separate origins which I believe have been explained in a very good article on the senshi and astrology which I remember thoroughly enjoying and gaping at when reading that I can't, for the life of me, find. Gomen nasai etcetera. ^^;;;; But I certainly have a greater understanding of Sailor Moon from this, not HUGELY greater, but greater in a nice little sense that I won't have to worry about these details anymore and can start pondering, once again, what the HECK Zirconia is and if he she or it is male or female or...NOT. ^^; Arigatou Gozaimaaasu and good night people.

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Levi, Antonia. "Samurai from Outer Space : Understanding Japanese Animation". Peru, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company, 1997

Smith, Bradley. "Japan-A History in Art". Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1964

I'd like to add that the first book up there is a *GREAT* resource for any otaku interested in the stories behind the anime they watch, and helped me understand a great deal about this intriguing and enjoyable medium. "Don't floss angry" - Lore, Brunching Shuttlecocks.

Comments on this article can be sent to: Irk.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

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